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Monday, 5 November 2012

Silencing the Majority Opinion

Something most unusual (but not unexpected) is happening in New Zealand, the National Business Review reports today:
A month after consultation on its plain packaging regime for cigarettes closed, the Ministry of Health will not say how many submissions it received.


Yet the October 5 deadline for submissions passed unannounced, suggesting the number received in opposition could be huge.

NBR ONLINE asked the ministry about the numbers, but was told the volume would not be revealed until after the government has reached decision – expected by the end of the year.
So let's ask ourselves why the New Zealand Ministry of Health won't reveal the number of submissions until after the government has already decided.  Could it be that the huge opposition to plain packaging will damage the tobacco control industry's cause?  Perhaps the ministry learnt a lesson from the UK's consultation, which garnered over 500,000 responses in opposition to plain packs and easily surpassed the pro-plain packs submissions. Such massive opposition in the UK did great harm to the tobacco control industry's campaign.  If New Zealand is trying to avoid extreme negative publicity in its quest to eradicate smokers, then perhaps dishonestly refusing to disclose the number of submissions is helpful to their cause.

Whatever the reasons for withholding the submissions tally, which the NBR believes to have exceeded 10,000 responses, it is a most troubling sign that our western governments are refusing to be transparent at every step of the process of public consultations.

The agenda for those in Public Health is clear:  You are "free" to do only what we tell you to do. Do not question us.

Indeed, in an extremely unusual move, the UK's Department of Health early-released an incredibly one-sided and incomplete Freedom of Information request that obviously was intended to damage the Hands Off Our Packs campaign.  I'm not one to buy into conspiracy theories, but that FOI seemed to be a deliberate attempt by those in government agencies and the tobacco control industry to discredit and silence the majority in order to further their agenda. 

What sort of shenanigans should we expect in the coming weeks when the DH finally releases its report on the consultation?  How many more FOIs will need to be sent to the DH to discern how much influence the tobacco control industry has over our government official and agencies? What sort of corruption will we find? And will it be too late to do anything about it when we do learn the truth?

We need to rethink how our democratic governments work and represent us. They are supposed to be working for us. Instead, we find our societies increasingly under the thumbs of oppressive democratic-socialist regimes that aim to dictate how free citizens must live their lives.  Our western civilisation is looking more and more like the former USSR with each passing year. 

Are we in control of ourselves and our own destinies, or are our governments controlling us? If the latter holds true, then it can only be our fault for tacitly accepting governmental intrusions into our liberties and freedoms.  It's time we held our government ministers and officials responsible for their actions.  It's time to shine some light into the darkest crevices in our government institutions. 

It's time to stand up for freedom and liberty and be silent no longer.